Zuniga-Teran and her team have extensively investigated how neighborhood design influences physical activity and wellbeing. They studied “four types of neighborhood designs: traditional development [these include homes and accessible commercial spaces], suburban development, enclosed [gated] community, and cluster housing development [which generally preserve natural/green spaces and include townhouse-type homes], and assess their level of walkability and their effects on physical activity and wellbeing. . . . traditional development showed . . . the highest value for walkability, as well as for each of the two types of walking (recreation and transportation) representing physical activity [so people living in traditional developments walked the most]. Suburban development showed . . . the highest mean values for mental health and wellbeing. Cluster housing . . . [had the] highest mean value for social interactions with neighbors and for perceived safety from crime. Enclosed community did not obtain the highest means for any wellbeing benefit [even perceived safety]. . . . This study provides empirical evidence of the importance of including vegetation, particularly trees, throughout neighborhoods in order to increase physical activity and wellbeing. Likewise, the results suggest that regular maintenance is an important strategy to improve mental health and overall wellbeing in cities.” People in traditional types of communities, on average, scored lowest for mental wellbeing and highest for perceived crime in their neighborhood.
Adriana Zuniga-Teran, Barron Orr, Randy Gimblett, Nader Chalfoun, David Guertin, and Stuart Marsh. 2017. “Neighborhood Design, Physical Activity, and Wellbeing: Applying the Walkability Model.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 76.